Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore

The Public Order Act was passed in 2009 “to regulate assemblies and processions in public places, to provide powers necessary for preserving public order and the safety of individuals at special event areas, to supplement other laws relating to the preservation and maintenance of public order in public places.”

 

What is a public assembly?

Under section 2 of the Act, a public assembly is an assembly held or to be held in a public place or to which members of the public in general are invited, induced or permitted to attend with the intention to

(a)   Demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government;

(b)  Publicise a cause or campaign; or

(c)   Mark or commemorate any event.

This includes a demonstration by a person alone for any of the abovementioned purposes.

 

What is a public procession?

Under section 2 of the Act, a public procession is a march, parade or other procession in, to or from a public place where 2 or more persons move as a body by a common route with the intention to

(a)   Demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government;

(b)  Publicise a cause or campaign; or

(c)   Mark or commemorate any event.

This includes any assembly held in conjunction with such procession, and a march by a person alone for any such mentioned purpose.

What is a public place?

Under section 2 of the Act, a public place is

(a)   Any place (open to the air or otherwise) to which members of the public have access as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission, whether or not on payment of a fee, whether or not access to the place may be restricted at particular times or for particular purposes, and whether or not it is an “approved place” within the meaning of the Public Entertainments Act; or

(b)  A part of a place that the occupier of the place allows members of the public to enter, but only while the place is ordinarily open to the members of the public.

What are the public assemblies and public processions which are exempted from the Act?

The Public Order (Exempt Assemblies and Processions) Order 2009 provides a list of assemblies and processions which are exempt from permit requirements. These include weddings, funerals, commercial activities such as charitable and fund-raising events, sporting competitions and recreational activities organised by Statutory Boards as well as Seventh Month Festival auctions.

What are the public assemblies and public processions that require a permit?

These include religious assemblies, festival processions (e.g. lantern festival foot procession), religious processions (e.g. chariot procession, foot procession, foot and vehicular procession or vehicular procession), public talks and drinking in a public place within special zone that is not exempted by a Class permit or under the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act.

How can an organiser apply for a permit to hold a public assembly or public procession?

Section 5 of the Act prevents public assemblies or public processions from taking place if the Commissioner of the Police has not been first notified and a permit has not been granted unless an exemption has been granted by the Minister under section 46.

You can apply for a permit online via the Singapore Police Force (SPF) using your SingPass. Permit applications with sufficient information shall be submitted at least 14 working days before the date of the event. If the proposed event requires a partial or full closure of any road, your application form together with the necessary supporting documents, including a map showing the roads affected, must be submitted at least 21 working days before the date of the event. Additionally, a permit fee may apply.

How can the Commissioner refuse to grant a permit for a public assembly or public procession?

Under section 7 of Act, the Commissioner may refuse to grant a permit if he has reasonable ground for apprehending that the proposed assembly or procession may

(a)   Occasion public disorder, or damage to public or private property;

(b)  Create a public nuisance;

(c)   Give rise to an obstruction in any public road;

(d)  Place the safety of any person in jeopardy;

(e)   Cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different groups in Singapore;

(f)   Glorify the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism or any offence or otherwise have the effect of directly or indirectly encouraging or otherwise inducing members of the public to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or such an offence;

(g)  Be held within or enter a prohibited area or an area to which an order or a notification under section 13 applies; or

(h)  Be directed towards a political end and be organised by, or involve the participation of, any of the following persons:

a.     An entity that is not a Singapore entity;

b.     An individual who is not a citizen of Singapore.

What are the penalties for holding a public assembly or public procession without a permit?

A person who organises a public assembly or public procession in respect of which no permit has been granted under section 7 or no such permit is in force, where such permit is required by this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000. Repeat offenders are liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

A person who takes part in a public assembly or public procession in respect of which no permit has been granted under section 7 or no such permit is in force, where such permit is required by this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding $3,000. Repeat offenders are liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.

On 29 November 2017, civil rights activist Jolovan Wham was charged in court with organising three separate public assemblies over the past year without a police permit, vandalism and refusing to sign police statements.

How may we help?

If a public assembly or public procession contravenes any legislation and fails to adhere to the conditions imposed by the Commissioner, as an organiser, you may be liable to a fine or prison sentence or both.

At I.R.B. Law LLP, we believe that everyone deserves fair representation. We have a team of lawyers who have an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system and criminal law proceedings.

If you find yourself in a position where you need our assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at Hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at 6589 8913 to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers today.